The Walk Home: A Brief Ghost Story

It’s 8:26PM in London. She should be crossing Waterloo Bridge now, enroute to Tesco for her post-class meal of 88 calorie popcorn. Her jazz shoes should be tucked into their special compartment of her purse, resting up for tomorrow. Her stockings should hang themselves from her sharp hipbones, threatening to fall and hit the sidewalk. All around her the skyline’s flickering lights should be wasting away into blackness, fading into blurs, pecking smoggy death on the cheek. Renegade red busses filled with happy drunks should be rushing past. The wind, chilly and bloated, should be blowing her into traffic. The muddy Thames should be lapping hungrily at its banks, inviting her down into its oily, clotty currents; she could’ve jumped, but no, she’d be ashamed to die fat.

That was a typical Friday night for her–walking home from dance, practicing her pas de bourées as she went. Back, side, front, back, side, front; the step became her heartbeat when she hardly had her own. It kept her alive as her feet danced past the station’s warm light, past the theatre’s dwindling crowds and the shops’ closing sounds, past the bars’ evening bustle and the restaurants’ french-fry scent, past the cheap hotels and the half-finished demolitions, through the clouds of smoke and to the building’s sliding door. Bony hands fumbled with brass keys under the blue moon, and back, side, front, back, side, front, she’d glide into Moonraker.

The lobby was full of laughing people, leaving lofty lifts surrounding, waving as they weaved through the orange doors. Flatmates among them screamed hellos, you knows; off to club in Camden, they wanted to know, why wouldn’t she go? She’d force a smile, cheeks tearing, eyes cracking; ‘next time,’ she’d promise, explaining an all-consuming, absolutely agonising assignment that didn’t exist. They’d nod and turn away, everyone going their separate ways; ‘you this way; we this way,’ as the great playwright says.

Eight flights of stairs later, a lonely door would slam on an empty flat, a carpet would bleed under familiar feet, and a young girl would make her way to a metal ledge. Hanging over the balcony edge, she’d survey the Southwark streets with those dry, dead eyes, watching cars go by, composing tragedies for each passerby with no idea that she, too, would die. Oh, she is invincible there, invisible there, immortal and immortalised in London’s sour air!

You know, I think she’s still there, that stick-thin silhouette, haunting the hollow nights. Turn left on Union and you’ll see her. Smile and wave, and I promise she won’t hurt you. She’ll join you for a chat, a ghost in white, dancing through the night to drown in your story. Say hello, tell her ’bout that book you just read, and, if you remember, let her know how sorry I am that this is how our story has to end.

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